‘The Walking Dead’ Season 10 Finale Sidesteps ‘A Certain Doom’ While Stumbling Into an Uncertain One
It’s been quite a while since we were left at the tower waiting for the final episode of “The Walking Dead” season 10. In the interim, the Whisperers have had time to amass a major army of silent but deadly zombie troops. If it wasn’t for the Covid production shutdown, the heroes of “The Walking Dead” might have stood a chance. But look at those reinforcements. Gabriel’s (Seth Gilliam) view from the refugees’ last vantage point is as beautiful as it is frightening. The downward spiral into the grotesque morass of bodies is impressive. The mix of humanity and the loss of humanity is a formidable enemy, but the former priest with the wandering flock and cloudy eye has faith down to each and every finger. It’s a good thing he doesn’t get to see the full aerial view.
Beta does a pretty good job keeping the walkers in line, but without Alpha the Whisperers have lost their ASMR powers. Very early in the episode, however, is a curious interlude. In the midst of the merged throng of walkers and Whisperers, we see a double exposure as all those pretending to be undead turn to Beta, and we get the sense of a group think or hive mind occurrence. It is a subliminal way to move the horde, as they think they are fully in control of the grisly battlefield. They are ushering in the end of the world, not just as they know it, and they feel fine.
“The Walking Dead” consistently and expertly alternates between sequences of utter despair and desperation to moments of hope. Gabriel’s belief in future deliverance is so strong it foreshadows characters yet to come as if they are sacred manifestations. Some of them are old and familiar friends, like the errant Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan). Others we are not yet acquainted with, like some bearded man with a backpack walking with a proprietary determination, and the masked ninja marauder who is probably just as scary to the people he rescues as whatever it is he’s rescuing them from.
For every setback the groups survive, from the Hilltop to the fallen Kingdom, someone finds wondrous possibilities. Alpha’s daughter Lydia tells Carol she’s not looking for a new mom, but they can all be something else. She also thinks Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) can be a hero. He is still trying to be everything to everyone and is becoming no one. We can’t wait to see his reunion with Maggie. Ezekiel (Khary Payton) really is the nicest guy on the post-zombie-apocalypse planet. He truly is a king. He has a royal bearing and an understanding heart. While Eugene is trapped in his own despair it’s King Ezekiel who drags him out. He knows the pain of losing a kingdom and has never once lost the desire to seek a new empire and new inclusivity. Eugene can fall and say he can’t get up, but even if he misses his precious deadline, there are new worlds to explore and people to meet. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. Of course, most of the time you have to put a kitchen knife in their brain, just to be sure.
The best line of the episode is when a low-level Whisperer staggers past Beta to hiss “oh fuck.” Who says the Whisperers don’t have a sense of humor? This reviewer started rooting for them all over again. The short exchange isn’t much different than the longer and much more intimate conversation between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), who basically grunts assents and disapprovals like a Basset Hound in from the rain. He says more to Judith with an extended hand than he would ever attempt verbally. But we understand him when he tells the group which is leading the Pied Piper party not everyone is going to make it.
The extended sequence where the party goes out among the dead to lead the line of lemmings off the cliff is as claustrophobic as it is suspenseful. We were just reminded not everyone’s going to make it, and as the dead come sniffing at prone faces, we expect each moment to be someone’s last. When the arrows start flying, the pressure is actually alleviated. Until Carol has to make a fateful decision and Beatrice takes it for the team. Before we recognize Lydia as the person picking up the slack, it looks like Carol is going to have another fight on her hands. To think, they went through all that trouble just to put together a killer sound system. It gives you hope, especially when the first song turns out to be, spoiler alert, the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.” It is a full-on triumphant moment, and very effective, until the song ends before the party’s over.
“In darkness, we are nothing. We are free,” we hear as Beta submits himself to his predetermined end, what he’s wanted since the beginning. Beta is pure Zen. “You know who he was,” Negan asks. “Yeah, nobody,” Daryl says in a fitting testament to the man who was once a mere “Half Moon.” His brother Merle must have had all his albums. When the rest of the herd are cleared it looks like the terrain had a morning shave. Appearances can be deceiving. It looks like Eugene and his crew are kidnapped by rogue Rollerball players. They might be going for a starship trooper look but even Jedi Knights can’t pull off those shoulder pads.
“A Certain Doom” does what “The Walking Dead” does best. It closes a makeshift coffin on a chapter, buries it in a shallow grave, or in this case a deep canyon, and pries open new possibilities. Some of these are quite exciting, as we can see on the faces of both Maggie and Gabriel as they are reunited. Others are more exciting, which is apparent on the last look Princess (Paola Lazaro) gives the blade she is forced to throw down. All carry a certain doom.
“The Walking Dead” season 10 finale aired Oct. 4 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.